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Make an impact when speaking to your colleagues
You might not be lucky enough to have a broadcaster’s voice—booming, smooth and energetic—but that doesn’t have to stop you from speaking with clarity and authority in presentation or work settings.
Whether it’s a casual group meeting, one-on-one chat or formal presentation, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for speaking to your colleagues and making an impact. It might sound obvious, but the way you speak can significantly affect how your colleagues respond to what you’re saying.
As it’s often difficult to recognize your own mistakes, here are some of the bigger slip-ups, plus a few tips on how to avoid them.
Using filler words and pauses
In everyday, casual speech, filler words such as “like,” “uh,” and “um” appear at high rates, often when we’re searching for the truly valuable words we want to bring across. Just think about how many times that friend or colleague uses the word “like” when telling you about their weekend.
These words act as a vocalized pause; a way to let our minds catch up with our mouths. In the business world, relying too often on these pauses can make for a nasty habit that muddies your real message.
Tip of the tongue: One easy way to avoid overuse is to slow down your speech. This gives you more time to think about what you’re going to say next, as well as making your points more clearly understood by your audience.
Filler words can also be a symptom of poor preparation; buying you extra time to figure out your next point on the fly. To avoid this, try to run through your presentation two or three times prior to the live version. You’ll notice that you’re much more succinct with your points and use a lot fewer filler words.
Speaking too quickly
It’s natural for some people to speak slowly, while others speak at a faster pace. However, in professional settings, speaking too fast is often a result of nervousness. And when you talk too fast, your audience has trouble understanding what you are saying. While nervousness is a side effect, clarity is a mandate.
Tip of the tongue: The trick is to focus on your breathing. You can slow your pace—and reduce nervousness—by taking deep breaths before new sentences and topics. It’s a small, simple action, but it can create natural pauses in your delivery.
Speaking too quietly
Similar to pace, everyone has a natural speaking volume. But when it comes to presentations and conversations, it’s important to be loud enough for everyone to hear you. Just be mindful of how much your voice is projecting, so you’re not on the verge of shouting.
Tip of the tongue: Again, control your breathing. Volume and projection problems occur when people tighten up and constrict their vocal chords, preventing a natural and smooth flow of air. Focus on your breathing so you can establish and maintain a smooth flow of air—and a solid tone of voice.
Have you ever noticed that people often get quieter as they finish sentences? It’s a common pattern among all types of talkers. But if you “trail off,” important information or directions can become misunderstood.
Further adding to this problem, many people add nonsensical words or phrases like “and so on” or “blah blah blah” at the end of sentences. By using these phrases, the speaker is implying that the listener understands the message being communicated. That’s not always the case and, in fact, can add confusion.
Tip of the tongue: The best solution is to simply focus on finishing your sentences and keep your voice loud and strong. “Annunciation” refers to carefully and clearly communicating every syllable. Plus, don’t assume your audience understands what you’re trying to communicate. Lose the meaningless phrases and say what you mean.
Using a monotone voice
A monotone, flat and boring voice can really turn off an audience—no matter how big or small. Think back to your school days and any teachers who spoke with monotone voices. How fun were those classes? People want to listen to someone who is excited about what he or she is saying, with enthusiasm and friendliness—and in turn, they will respond with more interest and enthusiasm.
Tip of the tongue: The best way to inject more enthusiasm into your voice is through, once again, breathing. The more relaxed you are, the more enthusiasm you’ll have. Just avoid going to extremes with high tones followed by low tones. Use your breathing to help punctuate key phrases and ideas with more energy. Also, work in some hand gestures and body motion to help deliver more impact.
Crafting that golden voice
In the office, speaking to colleagues is inevitable. So when you do speak, whether a presentation or impromptu chat, make it count. Make sure your listeners fully understand you and enjoy the experience. You don’t want to sound too scripted or rehearsed, but always be aware of how you’re presenting yourself.
While broadcasters, actors and voice artists perform vocal exercises, such as making funny faces in a mirror or saying tongue twisters, you just need to keep in mind the small things, plus the tips above, in order to give your voice the spotlight it deserves.
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